Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Takin’ care of business

Lethargic KU victory sets up showdown


The 1,000 or so Kansas University students who decided to skip Tuesday's KU-Baylor basketball game obviously had their minds on Texas.

The unusually quiet fans who did show for KU's methodical 76-61 victory over the Bears also undoubtedly were dreaming about Saturday's 8 p.m. marquee matchup against the Longhorns.

Heck, half of the questions in the postgame news conference were not about Julian Wright's career-best 20-point effort or Darnell Jackson and C.J. Giles' combined 21 points and 11 boards, but about the upcoming showdown in Austin, Texas, between the Jayhawks (20-6 overall, 11-2 Big 12 Conference) and Longhorns, who will take a 22-4 record and a 10-2 league mark into tonight's game at Kansas State.

"I think we are ready," KU coach Bill Self said after surviving a game which he deemed "ugly."

"I guess we are. We'll just have to wait and see. I'll be excited to see how we react. We've not been tested to the level we will be Saturday."

Self hopes his Jayhawks are more ready mentally than they were versus the pesky Bears, who made seven of nine threes in the last 61â2 minutes to avoid a rout.

"I was worried about this game because I knew Baylor could shoot threes and knew we would be flat," Self said. "We were due to be flat. This was a sandwich game between Missouri and Texas.

"The crowd was flat. We didn't do much to pump energy in the building. The way we played didn't surprise me at all."

The one overriding highlight on a night Jeff Hawkins served a one-game suspension - for his getting cited for leaving the scene of an accident and not having proof of insurance early Sunday morning - was freshman Wright, who scored his 20 off 10-of-11 shooting.

It was the most accurate performance by a Jayhawk with a minimum of 10 attempts since Wayne Simien hit 10 of 11 shots against Emporia State in December of 2002.

It marked a school-best percentage in a conference game since Mark Randall hit 11 of 12 shots against Oklahoma State in February of 1989.

"I just try to get easy baskets. It's not a big concern getting 20 on anybody," Wright said. "The way our offense goes, anybody can get shots up. It can be anybody on a given night."

Not anybody can dunk like Wright, however.

He put home a highlight-reel jam off a feed from Chalmers just 1:53 into the second half.

Go figure

3 Days until the big Kansas-Texas showdown in Austin

0 Minutes played by KU's Jeff Hawkins after a brush with the law

60.7 KU's second-half field-goal-shooting percentage

51.7 KU's overall field-goal-shooting percentage

40.4 Baylor's overall field-goal-shooting percentage

52.4 Baylor's three-point field-goal-shooting percentage

10-for-11 Field-goal shooting by KU's Julian Wright

3 Did we mention just three days until Kansas-Texas in Austin?

"I was just trying to run the floor. Mario gave me a good pass and Russell, too, tonight," Wright said. "I just use my arms really to throw it, try to get it down. I don't even know where I am on the floor. I just go get it."

Fellow freshman Brandon Rush, who had 11 points in 33 minutes, said he knew Wright eventually would pot 20 points as he did so many times in high school.

"He's a great offensive player, and he likes to rebound," Rush gushed. "He runs the floor real well for a big man."

BU, which hit 11 of 21 threes but just 40.4 percent of its shots total, was led by guard Curtis Jerrells, who had 17 points, as well as guard Aaron Bruce and forward Tommy Swanson, who chipped in 13 apiece.

Jackson and Giles had 11 and 10 for KU, a team not used to playing with the northwest corner of the fieldhouse empty. The students who packed that corner for Missouri went AWOL on Tuesday.

"The students didn't come. They've been good the whole year," Self said. "Certainly this was as sparse of attendance we've had with the students in a while. You can't blame the crowd on us being dull. We are so spoiled. Every night there's 16,300, and they are up there early. Tonight we were playing a team that hasn't won as much (BU is 2-11). We still had a great crowd by normal standards, not a crowd they (players) are used to seeing."

It'll be different at Texas on Saturday.

"We'll be ready and prepared," said Rush, who will guard P.J. Tucker. "I know for sure I am. All I have to do is keep him away from the boards, but he'll be very strong. It's what we've been looking forward to. We'll go down there and focus. We'll be ready to play."


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